Northern Territory Government

Roll of Honour

O’CONNELL, Patrick Vincent

SS Zealandia

The SS Zealandia ablaze after the bombing of Darwin harbour.


Able Seaman Patrick Vincent O’Connell was born in 1914 to Thomas John and Louisa Jane O'Connell of Sydney. O’Connell was living at 53 Spruson Street, Neutral Bay, when he enlisted in the Australian Merchant Navy on 1 December 1939 and became a fireman aboard SS Zealandia

SS Zealandia was the last vessel to be attacked by Japanese dive bombers and fighter planes during the raid on Darwin, 19 February 1942. One bomb landed down the No. 3 hatch, exploding in the hold; more bombs found their mark and dive bombers raked the ship at masthead height with incendiary and cannon shell. Every effort was made to extinguish the fires, but with the ship ablaze the situation became hopeless. Finally, ammunition in the hold and on deck exploded and the Master gave the order to abandon ship. The crew of 139 officers and men crowded into the remaining lifeboats and pulled away from the ship. SS Zealandia was settling by the stern, and at 1pm she sank.

According to the official log for SS Zealandia, Pat O’Connell was struck on the head by shrapnel during the Japanese attack and was moved to the Hospital Ship Manunda for medical attention. He died at 18:30 on 23 February 1942 aboard the Hospital ship Manunda, and was buried at sea at 10:00 am the following day at lat. 21°30’ S. Long 113° 26’ E.

He was twenty-seven years old and left behind a wife, Phyllis Doreen O'Connell (nee Blake), who he had married in 1936. In the Sydney Morning Herald (19 February 1945), he was remembered by his brothers Maurice and Grace, Tom and Ethel; and also remembered by his other siblings, Nellie, Mabel, Kitty, Molly and Henry, in the same newspaper on 23 February 1945.

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